Saturday, February 16, 2008
Dillinger's Girl....Billie Frechette
Billie Frechette was a Wisconsin girl. Her father was French and her Mother was Menominee (it doesn't get more old school Wisconsin than that.} She lived on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin until she was 13. After four years in a boarding School for Indian children, she moved to Chicago. She fell in with petty criminals. Her first husband, a handsome oddball named Welton, was sentenced to prison in 1933 for committing a mail robbery.
In November of that year, she met John Dillinger at a dance hall. She said, "There was something in those eyes that I will never forget. They were piercing and electric, yet there was an amused carefree twinkle in them too. They met my eyes and held me hypnotized for an instant." I'll say....And what a beautiful couple they were. Frechette was 26, Dillinger was 30.
"John was good to me. He looked after me and bought me all kinds of jewelry and cars and pets, and we went places and saw things, and he gave me everything a girl wants. He treated me like a lady." In the next year, Billie played the role of lover and companion to America's #1 most loveable gangster. "Only once did she drive a getaway car, when the St. Paul police had discovered their apartment -- and that was only because Dillinger had been wounded in the leg."
The pair remained together until Frechette was arrested by the Feds on April 9, 1934. Dillinger was dissuaded from rescuing her by fellow gang members. He left the scene "crying like a baby."
Frechette served two years in federal prison for harboring a criminal and it was there that she learned of Dillinger's death. She died on January 13, 1969, in Shawano, Wisconsin. The role of Billie Frechette in the upcoming Johnny Depp Dillinger film will be played by French actress and current(2008)Oscar nominee, Marion Cotillard. She did a great job playing Edith Piaf, a truly great singer who's
only claim to Wisconsinology fame is her friendship with our very own world renowned queen of cabaret, Hildegarde.
Thanks to a comment from badgerden for inspiring this post.
Bryan Burrough is the author of Public Enemies, the book on which the new Dillinger film, directed by Michael Mann, is based.